Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not-Mindy's Tortilla Soup

***Edit: We prefer this new tortilla soup by far!!!

John ate some delicious tortilla soup at his bi-weekly meeting of boardgamegeeks, and I heard so much about it that I was driven to seek out the same. I still need to get Mindy's exact recipe, but since I haven't, I made a soup cobbled together from lots of other recipes. It's yummy, but if your finances are strapped or you hate meat, skip the chicken entirely. John really liked it, but he would have preferred it meatless, which is fine by me, so next time, I'll cook the chicken to make the chicken broth base and then freeze the meat for another use.

It's a full-flavored, moderately spicy soup with a hint of sweetness from the corn. I'm definitely making it again, only next time I'll have the foresight to bake extra tortillas.

*I used all fresh herbs because we have them growing in the garden, but dried herbs could easily be substituted. Rule of thumb: for every tablespoon of fresh herbs, use one teaspoon of dried.

1/2 of a giant onion, chopped (@ 1 cup?)
@ 10 cloves garlic, minced

Cut up the whole chicken into eight pieces and boil it until cooked (reserve chicken broth for soup base; more than half the chicken can be saved or frozen for another meal)

1 quart canned tomatoes, cut up (or one 28 oz. can diced tomato)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
frozen corn (I used last summer's frozen...about 10 oz.???)
@ 1/4-1/3 cup chopped green onion tops, opt. (we had them in the garden, so I threw them in)
@ 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, then chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 and 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground cayenne

12 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4"-1/2" strips (I'll use more tortillas next time.)

tortilla chips
shredded Monterey jack cheese

Saute the onions in a bit of olive oil. Add the garlic for the last minute. After cooking the whole chicken, skim the fat off of the broth. Shred the desired amount of chicken for the soup and save the remainder for another use. Add all ingredients to the chicken broth and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, it's time to prepare the tortilla strips from which the soup gets its name. Buy a bag of soft CORN tortillas. Stack about six of them on a cutting board and cut them into strips. All the recipes I looked at had instructions for frying them, which you can do, but I baked them with excellent results. Simply spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, lay the tortilla strips on the sheet and spray the tops of the strips with cooking spray. Bake in a hot oven (@ 400-450 degrees?) until golden brown and crispy, turning once midway through.

Serve the soup topped with tortilla strips and Monterey jack cheese, if desired. (I like it with lots of tortilla strips and little cheese.) Break the tortilla strips as you add them to your soup, unless you need to keep them whole in order to take a picture for your recipe blog.

Grilled and Marinated London Broil

My parents gave us a cut of London Broil, and I used a wonderful recipe from Emeril Lagasse. I love beef but rarely have it in any form, and I'm no good at cooking beef cuts properly unless they're marinated or slow cooked, so this recipe was perfect. The flavor is full and mouthwatering. I served potato wedges, but I think the juice would be delicious spooned over mashed potatoes.

Hat's off to you, Emeril!

1 (2 1/2 pound) tri-tip London Broil or flank steak (Tri-tip? I know nothing about beef...)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry red wine (We had no red wine, so I used a bit more red wine vinegar mixed with some beef broth)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Creole mustard, or other spicy whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, smashed

Place the flank steak in a large, plastic resealable bag.
In a large, glass measuring cup, combine red wine vinegar, red wine, olive oil, Worcestershire, soy sauce, mustard, Essence, salt, pepper, and garlic. Pour the marinade into the bag with the steak, seal and place inside a large, glass baking dish to prevent possible spills. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. (I wanted the meat as fully marinated as possible, and I was paranoid of drying the cut through overcooking as I've been known to do, so I cut the meat into cubes before marinating it. Instead of a large hunk of London Broil, we had lots of savory, kebab-sized hunks.)

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. (Alternately, preheat the broiler). Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Place the steak on the grill (or under the broiler) and cook to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before carving.

Slice across the grain into thin diagonal slices. Serve steak with sauce.

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):
(I had some sitting in the cupboard, long leftover from this recipe.)

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.

Pesto Lasagna

Thanks to Titi for bringing this delicious lasagna to a get-together at our house two months ago. I've posted this recipe before (tacked onto the recipe for pesto), but here it is again...with a picture!

The recipe makes two 9x13 pans, so either cut the recipe in half, freeze one pan, or eat pesto lasagna for a week. All are acceptable options...

2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups pesto
4 pounds part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roasted
32 lasagna noodles
2 pounds part skim milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onions in 1 tablespoons of the olive oil until the onions are soft (5-8 minutes). Add salt and pepper in moderate quantities. Remover from heat. Add drained, thawed spinach. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Add half the grated parmesan, the pesto, the ricotta and the sunflower seeds. Grind in some extra black pepper. Mix thoroughly.

3. Meanwhile, boil the lasagna noodles until partially cooked. Drain and rinse under cold water.

4. Coat 2 13 x 9 pans with olive oil. Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of each pan. Spread 1/4 of the filling onto the noodles. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mozzarella over the filling.

5. Repeat with remaining filling and mozzarella. Place a final layer of noodles over that.

6. Sprinkle remaining parmesan over the top. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with foil and bake at 350ยบ for 35-40 minutes.

Bean & Tomato Tortillas with Cilantro

We've been eating lots of tortilla/burrito-type meals since John decided he liked them, especially now that fresh herbs grow right outside. We usually make them meatless, but this time I added cubed chicken. This is another throw-together meal with no set recipe, but here's what I put in these.

Half an onion, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 chicken breasts, cubed, then cooked in olive oil and seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper
4-6 plump cloves garlic

6-8 oz. freshly shredded monterey jack cheese
@ 3/4 cup loose cilantro leaves (then chopped after measuring)
ground cumin
garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can of diced tomatoes with chiles OR diced fresh tomatoes and minced chiles OR diced tomato and cayenne powder to taste

12-16 flour tortillas

sour cream and salsa, opt.

*If substituting dried herbs for fresh, use 1 tsp. dried for every 1 tbsp. fresh.

Cook cubed chicken and diced onion together in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic for the last minute or two of cooking. Add tomatoes, black beans, and most of the cilantro to the mixture (and chiles, if using). Reserve some cilantro for the tops. Season with cumin, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and additional garlic powder to taste, if desired. We didn't have any, but if you have lime juice, you could splash some in the filling, too. Let mixture simmer for 5 minutes or so until heated through.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soften tortillas in microwave or briefly in oven, spoon filling into them, top the filling with some shredded monterey jack cheese, and roll the tortillas up. Place seam side down in a greased baking dish and top with more shredded monterey jack cheese and minced cilantro.

Bake in the oven until tortillas are crispy on top and cheese is lightly browned. Eat warm with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Chocolate Chip Banana Crumb Muffins

I found this recipe for crumb-topped banana muffins on the internet when John's family was visiting. I altered them slightly (adding chocolate chips, extra banana, and a bit of oil), and they ended up being the moistest, most delicious banana muffins I've ever had. I'm not the only one who raved like a maniac over them, either, which is the assurance I needed to post the recipe. (Next time, I may try substitutingf applesauce for some of the butter/oil, but only if I'm feeling annoyingly health-conscious.)

As with all banana recipes, the darker the bananas you use, the more delicious and pronounced their flavor will be in the recipe.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 overly ripe bananas, mashed (I used nearly four)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted (I also added 2 or three tablespoons of canola oil)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers. (***My batter ended up making about 14 muffins.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter, oil, and chocolate chips. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
* I also added a touch of cinnamon to the muffin batter.

Zingy Pasta Salad with Garlic and Basil

After too many nights of various combinations of rice, beans, and tomatoes, summer's here, and the garden bristles with herbs and fresh vegetables. We're beginning to eat like kings on a dime budget again. (Not that we don't ever eat like kings during the just costs more than a dime, and guilt ensues.)

If you've a garden, and you like garlic, you've probably made an almost identical pasta, as it's a throw-together of 15 minutes or less. It's "zingy" because I used enough garlic for Annika to complain of its spiciness. John loved the pasta, and corrected her; apparently, it's not spicy, just zingy.

Cook one box penne rigate (my standby Aldi only has white, but to make this healthy, use wheat) until al dente. Cool under cold running water and drain.

In a blender, combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, and 6 plump cloves garlic (freshly minced). Blend until liquefied/pureed/whatever it's called when everything is in eensy pieces and coats the pasta evenly. (If you don't have a blender or similar kitchen gadget, just smush everything as small as you can.)

Add to pasta and toss together with one sliced cucumber and several roma tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.